Political climate marked by influential UM graduates


Tim Canova. Donna Shalala. Marco Rubio. Patrick Murphy. Reince Priebus. The University of Miami has ties to many political influencers, all of whom have wandered around the Coral Gables campus at some point.

Tim Canova, a former UM law professor, was the passionate underdog candidate in the recent Democratic congressional primary against former Democratic National Convention (DNC) Chair and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who stepped down after official DNC emails suggesting favoritism toward Hillary Clinton throughout the primary were leaked.

Canova began his campaign in January 2016 as a mostly unknown and underfunded candidate. With the help of Senator Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, Canova rose to prominence in South Florida.

“Canova is another one of those politicians like Bernie Sanders who will continue to motivate people to get involved and make them feel valued for their help,” said Katie Gawin, a senior at UM who has been supporting Canova since Sanders’ endorsement of Canova in May 2016.

However, it was not enough to secure a victory. RealClearPolitics reported that four weeks out from the primary, “60 percent of voters had no opinion or had never heard of him.” He fell short in the primary election, 43 to 57 percent.

“His loss just shows that money will always play a large role in politics and that corruption cannot be overcome in small doses, but rather, it must be challenged over a longer period of time,” said freshman Dalia Hussainy.

Schultz was known for her connection to prominent figures such as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who supported Schultz throughout her campaign for re-election.

Clinton is closely aligned with former UM President Donna Shalala, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. From 2001 to 2015, Shalala worked at UM, where the Clintons held their Clinton Global Initiative University for two consecutive years.

When Shalala left UM in 2015, she was named president of the Clinton Foundation upon Chelsea Clinton’s urging.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus graduated from UM cum laude with a law degree in 1998. While at the university, Priebus was a bright student. He served as a copy editor and writer for the Res Ipsa Loquitur, the official newspaper of the School of Law.

He served as president of the School of Law for two years. He also clerked for several organizations, one of which was the Southern District of Florida, while in school. In January 2011, he was elected as RNC chairman.

Priebus has been the driving force of the Republican organization this year, overseeing the Republican presidential primaries and Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Marco Rubio, a Florida senator and former Republican presidential candidate, is also an alumnus of UM School of Law. While he attended UM, Rubio interned for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also an alumna.

Rubio had a fast-paced and high-profile career since his graduation, working his way from West Miami city commissioner to presidential candidate. Rubio was the first UM alumnus to run for the presidency.

Rubio lives with his family in Miami-Dade County, and revisited his alma mater earlier this year for the Republican presidential primary debate held in the BankUnited Center on March 10. Rubio stood onstage at his alma mater, in front of a crowd of people mostly from his hometown.

Although Rubio lost the presidential primary, he won his Senate primary and is now fighting in the general election Senatorial campaign.

Rubio’s re-election competition is Congressman Patrick Murphy, who graduated from UM with dual majors in finance and accounting from the School of Business Administration in 2006.

Murphy ran for Congress in 2012 against the Republican incumbent candidate, Allen West, with the support of former Democratic President Bill Clinton. Murphy narrowly won by 0.8 percent in 2012 and was re-elected in 2014.

In his 2016 campaign, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both endorsed and appeared in advertisements for Murphy. Hussainy, a supporter of Murphy since 2012, said Murphy’s success shows the academic rigor of the university.

“UM can prepare you for a wide variety of careers, especially public service, which is so important,” Hussainy said.

In their various roles, these four UM graduates are influencing the changing political landscape not only for this election season, but for years to come.




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